For fans of New York–iana, including historic preservation buffs as well as collectors of true crime, eccentrics, and odd...


A septet of Manhattan buildings becomes the setting for this study of prewar comings and goings on the part of their wealthy, famous, and criminal inhabitants.

Pity Bernard McMahon, aka Bennie the Bum, who, in 1934, had the bad fortune to blow his kneecap off accidentally after taking part in a notorious armed robbery that “was then the most lucrative armored car heist in United States history.” Bennie bled out and died, making his association with Legs Diamond all the more ironic—though, as New York Times reporter and editor Wakin writes, John Dillinger may also have played a part in the caper, and just about anyone who was anyone in the Gotham crime scene came under suspicion. McMahon’s case lies at the heart of the book, which centers on a group of seven stately Beaux Arts buildings on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, buildings whose fortunes have waxed and waned and waxed again. Among the inhabitants he profiles are Marion Davies, the one-time mistress of media mogul William Randolph Hearst, and Lucretia Davis, heir to a baking powder fortune, who, as a widow, “shocked and outraged the circle of family who experienced her benevolence” by marrying her chauffeur, then had the marriage annulled but sold off one of the buildings in order, Wakin speculates, to buy him off. Other figures in the book include Jokichi Takamine, a Japanese inventor well-known in his native land but obscure here; members of the of-pencil-fame Faber family; and jazz great Duke Ellington. Wakin never goes deep, and though his book is gossipy fun, it might have been more effective if confined to the Rubel heist itself, which is a fascinating case study in crime and (eventual) punishment in the heyday of organized crime. Some of the force of that story is diluted by side tracks into the less interesting, though still meaningful, threads involving the lesser players.

For fans of New York–iana, including historic preservation buffs as well as collectors of true crime, eccentrics, and odd moments.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62872-845-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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